Today we had two sets of visitors to the bunker where I work. Staff from a senator's office dropped by. They got the VIP treatment from corporate lackeys and a nickel tour from me. My boss came in afterward and told me what a fine job I'd done keeping the presentation simple. I shrugged and explained that they work in Washington! She shook her finger at me as she left.
The other visitor was a former pipeline technician who retired outside before I even started. He is visiting family here and called wondering if anyone he knew might be around. Our lead was hired when the pipeline was built, and was excited to see his old friend, telling us stories about him even before he was cleared by security to visit. All the stories were tragic. He was burned in an accident, and lived afterward in pain. He lost a child to disease when she was two. He lost his wonderful wife of twenty years to cancer. He lost the only job he'd ever had when station automation affected headcount. He lived alone, and his Alaskan friends lost track of him until his name was in the corporate newsletter, which described his stroke and slow rehabilitation, and suggested folks contact him if they wished, while they could.
The man was a joy. He was thrilled to see the new control room, bragging on how far the company had come. He hugged his old coworker with vigor. He slurred his speech a bit, and moved stiffly, but his smile was huge and free, and his aura was all positive. He asked relevant technical questions and whistled at how things had changed. He told us of his concerns when he worked for the pipeline, and nodded at the fixes, grimaced at the things that hadn't been fixed. He still cares, and feels pride and responsibility for the pipeline.
After half an hour, I felt comfortable enough to ask him the question I couldn't help but ask. "How do you do it? After all you've been through, all you're GOING through, how can you be so positive, so alive?"
He looked at me like I was an alien, Then scolded my boss with a glance for talking about him. Then he scratched his beard with one hand and put the other on my shoulder. "You know, I accomplished everything I dreamed of as a kid. I lived somewhere fun and beautiful, I was around a lot of interesting people, and I was loved. Now every day is gravy."
He told old pipeline stories for an hour or so, and I could swear my coworker was bleary-eyed after escorting him out the Get-Smart doors to the gate.